Two charged

24 04 2021

112Two are bailed, two are charged.

Two further lese majeste cases have been sent to investigation. Both seem part of an official and vigilante effort to drive people away from Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s commentaries that criticize and poke fun at the monarchy.

In the first case, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society has filed a complaint against a transgender woman for sharing a Facebook post by Pavin.

On 19 April 2021, Patchara, a pseudonym for a 22 year-old woman, attended the Technology Crime Suppression Division to hear the charges over her sharing of a Pavin post “that criticized the work of King Rama X…”. Her re-posting was on19 November 2020.

The police allege the re-posting constitutes an offense under Article 112 and was a breach of the Computer Crime Act. It was claimed that uploading information by Pavin criticizing the king was a threat to the kingdom’s security.

Patchara reportedly “denied the charge and will give further documentary testimony on 19 May. She also refused to sign the register for hearing the charge.”

According to Prachatai, “Patchara’s case is the 8th case of royal defamation filed by the MDES since the moratorium on using Section 112 ended in November 2020.”

The second case involves Pipat (surname withheld by request), a 20 year-old man who had to travel from his home in Lopburi to hear charges at the Bangkaew Provincial Police Station in Samut Prakan on 20 April 2021.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Pipat was charged for a post in Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace Facebook group. That group has over two million followers, almost all of them in Thailand.

The charge dates back to 28 May 2020, when someone named Umaphon Sunthonphot:

saw Pipat’s post on the Royalist Marketplace, a satirical Facebook group established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. The post consists of a photograph of King Rama X and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti with a 2-sentence caption to the Prince’s photo, which Umaphon views as defamation, infringement or an expression of hostility against the King and the Crown Prince.

The police charged Pipat under the lese majeste law and the Computer Crimes Act.

Pipat has also denied the charges and “will submit documentary testimony within 30 days.” In addition, he asked:

…police to summon the plaintiff to give further details about how his post damaged her and how it was deemed wrongful according to the Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The police said that they would do so.

Police took Pipat to Samut Prakan Provincial Court for a temporary detention order. Pipat’s lawyer asked for bail “with 150,000 baht as security, citing the principle of presumption of innocence, the accused’s good cooperation with the police, and the effect that detention would have on his career and family’s wellbeing.”

The court granted bail, which was posted by “Ratsadorn Prasong, a donation fund used for bailing out pro-democracy protesters or sympathizers.”

Prachatai adds that “at least 87 people have been charged” with lese majeste since last November. We at PPT think it is more than this, but accurate information is difficult to come by.





Framing activists

1 04 2021

AP reports that prosecutors have “indicted five pro-democracy activists on Wednesday on changes of attempting to harm the queen during a street demonstration last October in which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy.”

The five stand “accused of violating Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which says that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment.” This is another law “protecting” the monarchy, and this is, as far as we know, its first use in recent years.

As AP points out, there was no violence and “Queen Suthida … was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen and the king’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed through a small crowd of protesters mixed with supporters of the royal family.”

In other words, the protesters may have been set up and they are certainly being framed.

They include Akechai Hongkangwarn and Bunkueanun Paothong. It is reported that all “five deny any wrongdoing. After their indictment, they were released on bail of 200,000-300,000 baht ($6,400-$9,600) each.”





Palace PR at full throttle I

13 11 2020

The palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s “problems.” His explosive “divorces,” his erratic behavior and , and the rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. Generally, the PR exercises revolved around strategies that had “worked” for his father.

The explosion of dissatisfaction with Vajiralongkorn that has been seen recently, reflecting tension over his neo-feudal absolutism, his bahavior and his preference for living in Germany, has seen a new twist on palace propaganda. This involves a rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and the younger royal family members as celebrities. This might be called the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

As PPT has said previously, we think this new PR strategy reflects the influence of the royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem.

After rousing the raucous royalists in Bangkok, and getting good PR in Thailand (always expected and demanded) but also internationally, with that CNN interview contributing to an image of “compromise” and “popularity,” ignoring the king’s unsteadiness and giving him an instant free pass on all his previous black marks, the palace “influencers” have decided to have the king do “populist tours.”

Reuters reports that “Vajiralongkorn wrote messages of national unity and love on Tuesday during a visit to the northeast of the country two days after protesters sent him a letter demanding royal reforms that would curb his powers.”

In a PR stunt, the king wrote a message to the governor of Udon Thani province: “We all love and care for each other. Take care of the country, help each other protect our country with goodness for prosperity and protect Thainess…”. Going full-on celebrity on a “picture of himself and the queen … the king wrote”: “Love the nation, love the people, cherish Thainess, real happiness.” Another message stated: ““Thank you for all the love and support. We love and care for each other. We must take care of the country, and we must help each other protect it with virtue for it to prosper. Preserve the marvel of Thainess…”.

If the protests against the king have been unprecedented, so is the palace PR response, seeking to create a new image for the king. Previous efforts at this kind of image making have been undone by Vajiralongkorn’s inability to stick with the PR plan and messages.

As these reports of “good king” are being managed, there’s also been “bad king” reports. Hype (Malaysia) had this”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn was married to his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, in 2001, before divorcing her in 2014.

Since then, the ex-princess is currently under house-arrest and has decided to take on life as a nun.

Back in 2014, Srirasmi’s uncle, parents, sister and three brothers were convicted with several offences, including “lèse-majesté”, which is defamation to the monarchy. They were all sentenced to prison with different offences and Srirasmi got her royal title stripped of the same year.

As aforementioned, Srirasmi is under house arrest as she hasn’t been seen in public ever since she was forced to leave the royal house. As per China Press, Thai royal experts have exposed photos of the King’s third wife in white robes with her head shaved, as a sign of her nunhood, at her house in Ratchaburi province in central Thailand.

In the photos, she can be seen living a simple life of planting seeds and sweeping leaves in her backyard, despite previously living as a monarch. However, it might not be so simple for her as her eyes tell a different story.

According to SCMP, she was forced to leave her son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who is the next in line for the throne after the king. There are photos on the internet of Srirasmi’s last meeting with her son before she was forced to leave the palace.

We’re unsure of the exact reason behind her sadness but being under house-arrest while separated from your child can definitely drain one’s mental health.

But the PR/propaganda rattled on. In a Bangkok Post report it is stated that the king “has been told that many red-shirt villages that used to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are now sworn to uphold the monarchy.” Apparently, the person doing the telling was the queen: “They are from the red-shirt villages to protect the monarchy…” she said as she and the king were “mingling with supporters at Wing 23 of the air force in Udon Thani on Tuesday night.”

Of course, many millions of red shirts never considered Thaksin an enemy of the monarchy, but the queen seems to have taken this position. How does she know? For one thing, the yellow shirts constructed this narrative and clearly Suthida has imbibed the yellow shirt kool-aid. She’s had this view reinforced by the fawning betrayers of the red shirts, Anon Saennan and Suporn Atthawong, both of whom sold out to the rightists long ago.

The king appreciates the turncoats. The regime has rewarded Suporn with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions.

As the report states:

Mr Suporn was prosecuted for disrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009, but the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship member evaded the charges because police could not find him before the case expired in April last year.

An earlier Post report adds further detail, stating that Suporn:

a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

We assume the regime and the military are pouring funds into the Suporn-Anon anti-red shirt campaign.





Reporting unprecedented events

14 10 2020

A quick, early morning (Bangkok time) scan of the major newspaper shows no reporting of the events where protesters confronted royals. Khaosod is the exception.

Police and/or military trucked in to act as royalist supporters. Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul and clipped from Bangkok Post

Perhaps that will change, but we imagine regime, monarchy and ruling class are shocked to see and hear protesters yelling “ai hia” at the passengers in a yellow, royal Rolls Royce (Queen Suthida and Prince Prince Dipangkorn. For ultra-royalists, it is monarchy or chaos. They will become frantic.

One immediate response is more charges and more arrests. Khaosod also reports that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “ordered a “strict legal action without any exception” against protesters who allegedly blocked a royal motorcade…”.

For protesters it is monarchy or democracy.

 

 





Prince in Germany

24 05 2020

A couple of weeks ago, PPT posted on why it might be that King Vajiralongkorn prefers living in Germany rather than Thailand.

We thought that one of the reasons for preferring Germany might be that the king has had his son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in school there. While no one speaks about it, the 15-year old appears to have “learning difficulties.” His life in Germany is mostly private, although several videos of his life in Germany, with his father and friends have appeared.

Interestingly, several German media outlets have reported on the prince:

Prinz Dipangkorn: 5 Fakten über den künftigen König

Then Crown Prince and his kids from an earlier marriage

So leidet der kleine Sohn des großen Thai-Königs

These reports don’t say much that is worthy of translation, mentioning that he might be the king’s successor. It doesn’t mention the other boys.

It adds that he has no known connection with his mother, Srirasmi, having been ditched by  the king and essentially held under house arrest. There’s this:

According to press reports, Prince Dipangkorn lives in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. There he also goes to school and has made many friends. In 2018, the palace published photos of its birthday party with its German classmates. Other pictures show him hiking in the mountains or cycling.

Most recently, it is the Daily Mail with a story. As usual, the paper has a long headline: Thai King Rama X’s son lives a life of ‘loneliness and rejection’ in German villa while his father spends lockdown with harem of 20 army ‘sex soldiers’ in nearby hotel.

The story cites Bild: “the little Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, 15, lives in a villa with a pool and a view over a lake, with two dozen servants.” It adds:

Last known photo of Dipangkorn and his mother

A former palace employee, who has not been named, told Bild: ‘Dipangkorn is autistic. That was definitely the reason why he came to Germany.

‘Maha Vajiralongkorn is ashamed of his son’s developmental disorder….

And continues:

As the King’s only legitimate son and thus the heir to the throne, Dipangkorn has been removed from the public eye and is on a ‘development program’, according to the German publication.

Rama X has reportedly been living in Germany since 2007.

Dipangkorn has been attending the Waldorf School in Wolfratshausen since 2011. He is said to speak German, with a Bavarian accent, better than he does Thai.

 





Why does the king prefer Germany?

9 05 2020

That’s the question asked by a recent article at an Australian outlet. It is a good question, and many Thais ponder it as well.

The article comments that:

Aside from the controversial decision to self-isolate in an entire hotel with a harem of women, King … Vajiralongkorn’s living arrangements continue to perplex the world.

And it mentions the recent protests against his loose “isolation” at the “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, an alpine, luxury hotel in Germany’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen precinct…”.

There are royals who live outside their country, but they are usually in exile; Vajiralongkorn is in a kind of self-imposed exile.

The report’s answers to its question is somewhat shallow. It notes that he owns a villa in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg, suggesting that the “12 million euro” property is “away from prying eyes…”. It concludes that “the King’s property investments could be a key reason he so regularly resides in Germany.”

That seems unlikely. After all, the majority of his vast fortune is property in Bangkok. That certainly doesn’t keep him there. In addition, the villa in Tutzing is not particularly private and the town is small. But it is in a beautiful and quiet location, looking across the lake to the Alps.

Another claim is that Vajiralongkorn’s “complicated love life” is “possibly … a reason for [him] frequenting the European country.”

That, too, seems unlikely. His women are all from Thailand and he could easily fulfill his carnal desires and manage his women there. He’s done this before.

While the article speculates in these ways it fails to consider other possible possible reasons. For example, the king has had his son Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in school in Germany for some time. While no one speaks about it, it seems that the 15-year old has “learning difficulties.” His life in Germany is mostly private, although several videos of his life in Germany, with his father and friends have appeared.

Another consideration is the king’s health. There have long been rumors about his health. Yet he seems a fit 67-year old, regularly bicycling, exercising and skiing. We might guess that the king feels fitter and healthier in Europe. Most of his family in Bangkok seem sickly and unfit when compared with him. Being on a decade-long holiday in a pleasant Bavarian environment that is less polluted than Bangkok works wonders!

We do know that the king plans to continue to make Germany his home, having demanded changes to the junta’s 2017 constitution to allow him to operate as king remotely.





Humpty’s men

3 07 2019

Marwaan Macan-Markar, at the Nikkei Asia Review, contributes a long and useful review of the remolding of the relationship between monarchy and military.

He claims that diplomats in Bangkok know which military leaders are closest to King Vajiralongkorn by a pin with an “image of Prince Dipangkorn, the king’s 14-year-old son” which are “pinned on the left breasts of a select few military leaders…”. (Dipangkorn is widely considered to be heir apparent, lives in Germany and seldom appears the full quid.)

Gen Apirat

One diplomat described those wearing the pin as “a small network,” with Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong an important bearer of the pin. Gen Apirat is known to present himself as “fiercely loyal to the king.”

Macan-Markar says that this “network” indicate “a major change in the relationship between two of Thailand’s most powerful institutions — the monarchy and the military” under King  Vajiralongkorn.

While his analysis, based on interviews with diplomats, pundits and academics, is interesting, it is one that is based on a kind of “Kremlinology” of military watching which can be somewhat misleading if the forest is obscured by the trees. Hence the interminable speculation over Queen’s Guard versus King’s Guard.

In our view, it is misguided to see the king’s faith in the “senior generals of the King’s Guard, a Bangkok-based faction” as representing a spurning of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta. As far as anyone can tell from available evidence, the junta has done everything that the king has wanted and it is Gen Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda who have put in place military succession plans that lead from Gen Apirat to Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae, currently commander of the First Army region and Gen Songwit Noongpakdee, the leader of the Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Division.

That “defense analysts say the monarch’s choice of trusted lieutenants stems from his own military record” is no surprise, now. What they miss, however, is that the king’s succession was a long one, with his father incapacitated, and the then crown prince and his advisers long having had influence over the military brass.

Interestingly, and barely mentioned, is the ways in which the king revamped the Privy Council, the Crown Property Bureau and the palace administration over that period of long succession. In these moves, he made these institutions his own, bringing in junta loyalists and advancing those closest to him, including Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol, long the king’s private secretary and now, arguably, his most powerful adviser, heading the CPB, Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement Group, among other important bodies.

ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol (clipped from The Nation)

All of these rearrangements, promotions and not a few demotions and ousters do mean that a military man on the throne has ensured that he has the military under control. Just in case of problems, there’s some “insurance,” with ACM Sathitpong’s younger brother Pol Maj Gen Torsak at the head of a large force of “protectors.”

Naturally, Prawit remained a Prayuth confidant during the five years of the junta, serving as the deputy prime minister and defense minister. Gen. Anupong Paochinda, another former army chief from the Queen’s Guard, was also a key figure in Prayuth’s coup and junta.

That the king promotes the “King’s Guard, the faction he was part of, in the driving center of army power,” hardly seems a revelation. Yet there’s no evidence that the Queen’s Guard is in any way untrustworthy or disloyal. (It was King Bhumibol who placed his son in the King’s Guard.)

With little evidence, Macan-Markar discerns that the generals of Queen’s Guard is somehow more “politically ambitious” than those of the King’s Guard. There’s no evidence for this. In addition, there’s an amnesia for previous claims made. In the view of many pundits, it was the Queen’s Guard who conducted the 2014 coup in order to ensure the current king’s succession. What happened to that position? And, it was the Queen’s Guard coup masters who purged the military of those perceived as disloyal.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is quoted as saying: “The king clearly wants a vertical hierarchy without any distractions and divisions that can cause splits in the army…”. That seems to have been the junta’s aim as well. To see this as a move against the Queen’s Guard ignores the fact that the junta’s role has been to “cleanse” the military, to immeasurably strengthen it and to embed it at all levels of society. That’s the important message, not the Kremlinology of watching factions.

It seems that “experts” on the military blame “factional rivalries” for “repeated coups.” We think the experts need to re-read the history of successful coups.

Former ambassador and new author James Wise is right to observe that “the monarchy and the military exercise authority in their own right, often without reference to the more familiar legislative, executive and judiciary…”. The big picture matters.

When Kasit predicts: “No more coups,” we think he’s in la-la land. It will depend, as in the past, on on perceptions of “threat” to the monarchy and the broader ruling class.





Vajiralongkorn takes another wife

2 05 2019

Barely mentioned in the mainstream media before today, King Vajiralongkorn has taken Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya as his fourth official wife and new queen.

Reports now mention her as General Suthida, a rank given to her by Vajiralongkorn about the time he became king. He has given military rank to several wives and consorts in the past.

The Post states:

Since the marriage took place in line with the law and royal traditions, Queen Suthida is henceforth entitled to all the benefits of royal rank and status of the royal family, according to an announcement dated Wednesday and published in the Royal Gazette.

The fourth official wife Vajiralongkorn has had, the ceremony saw the officials register the marriage, witnessed by Princess Sirindhorn and Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.

The king has several consorts and has been seen with them in Germany. He was also seen in the infamous crop-top/fake tattoo photos with her.

Previous reporting on the 40 year-old Suthida has tended to coincide with her official promotions.

One event, in 2017, saw her awarded one of the highest royal decorations as commander in King Vajiralongkorn’s guard. Essentially, this made Suthida the “de facto head of security for … the King. Although she formally holds the title of deputy commander of the royal guard corps, the top rank had been left vacant since December 2016.” It was said Suthida had been serving in the royal guards since 2013.

The relationship between Vajiralongkorn and Suthida goes back several years.

In 2017, BBC Thai had a useful account of Suthida’s rise, beginning from 2012 and listing the many promotions and awards that have been showered on her by the prince-now-king, with each event is linked to the Royal Gazette.

Given her long relationship with Vajiralongkorn, we guess she knows what she’s getting into. His three previous marriages all ended in bitterness and some of them in terror.

As crown prince, Vajiralongkorn’s first official marriage was in early 1977 to his first cousin on Queen Sirikit’s side, Soamsawali.

It was an unhappy marriage.

The relationship had ended long after the prince abandoned Soamsawali, when she was pregnant, for the woman who would become his second official wife, Yuvadhida Polpraserth.

Soamsawali was protected by her family position after the divorce in 1991. She remained a member of the royal family as the mother of a royal grandchild.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

Yuvadhida was an actress from low-budget films that some saw as soft porn. Her official marriage to Vajiralongkorn in 1994 was only announced to the public a while after it took place. This was because the prince’s philandering was viewed dimly by the public.

Yuvadhida produced sons and a daughter. Within a couple of years, however, the family was thrown out of Thailand in a fit of princely rage over what might have involved allegations of her infidelity.

Only the daughter, now Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, returned to live with Vajiralongkorn, with the sons and their mother living in the U.S.A.

Meanwhile, the prince had already taken up with Srirasmi, made infamous by the leaked nude birthday party video.

She produced a son who is considered heir apparent, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.

Srirasmi’s ousting from the palace when the prince tired of her was nasty and vicious.

It seems she remains in Thailand but is in imposed seclusion and several members of her family have served jail terms.

Given the turmoil of the past, the new marriage will be watched with considerable interest, although reporting on it will not be possible in Thailand.





Making royal propaganda from the cave I

7 07 2018

A couple of days ago PPT commented on the making of royal propaganda and the king interfering in events and institutions that are not his preserve. In it, we observed how the palace propaganda machine in the previous reign regularly claimed a royal interest in events that elicited public sympathy. We don’t doubt the interest but the point was about how that interest became grist to the royal propaganda mill.

The ongoing efforts by rescuers to bring the soccer team out of the cave has continued to provide that propaganda opportunity.

In another message from the king’s palace he issued a statement “of appreciation, commendation and encouragement to the Thai and foreign teams who have located 12 young footballers and their coach…”.

The message allows the king to rehearse a message that was his father’s mantra: “there was unity of effort exerted by all in a disciplined manner, supported by great knowledge, dedication and sacrifice…”.

With the death of a former Navy seal, while tragic, provided another opportunity.

The king intervened, giving “instructions that Petty Officer 1st Class Saman be given dignified funeral rites.” The king “also gave instructions to that the dead diver’s children be well taken care of.”

In another effort at bolstering the “caring-ness” of the palace, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti Has “handwritten card … [that] urged 12 young footballers and their coach trapped inside a northern cave to stay strong, and thanked everyone involved in the attempt to rescue them.” He wrote it in German.

The 13 year-old son of the king is generally considered most likely to become crown prince in a few years. He is at school in Germany.

Such efforts will occur at every available opportunity, as they did in the past reign.





Locking ’em up

30 01 2015

Several media reports – including the Bangkok Post – on the rapid trials and sentencing of “former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan and five other policemen were sentenced to 12 years in jail, commuted by half because they confessed to charges of lese majeste and involvement in illegal casinos…”.

No surprises there at all. What is surprising is the claims that “prosecutors filed the charges against them in three cases on Thursday” and they were convicted on Friday. On such “delicate” cases with considerable political interest and high levels of “influence,” we guess getting them tried and convicted quickly is demanded, but 24 hours seems supersonic.

Pongpat and his former deputy Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongroongroj “were charged with lese majeste, malfeasance and provision for gambling.” On the lese majeste charge, the Bangkok Post reports:

[the] duo allegedly put the Royal Crest pin on their shoulders and put a badge bearing the portrait of … Prince Dhipankara Rasmijoti, the son of … Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and the former … Princess Srirasm, on their left pockets at all times to indicate the casino they were protecting had the palace’s backing.

We would suggest that the this claim to protection carried considerable weight given Pongpat was Srirasmi’s uncle and the prince was widely rumored to be involved in gambling dens.

It is also reported that a “second case [involved]… Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, Pol Maj Gen Kowit and Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb Praithuen, 55, a former marine police chief, were charged with soliciting and accepting bribes, malfeasance and lese majeste.”

The indictment claimed:

“they committed lese majeste because they wore police uniforms with a badge bearing … Prince Dhipankara Rasmijoti’s portrait on the pockets when they solicited the bribes. Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb also allegedly pointed to the badge and claimed the bribes would be submitted to their supervisor and then to the prince.

We wonder if there is any evidence to deny these claims?

A third case involved “Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, Pol Maj Gen Kowit and Pol Col Vutthichart Luensukan, 46, a former chief of the police Consumer Protection Division, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Surasak Channgao, 50, and Pol Snr Sgt Maj Chattrin Laothong, 48, were accused of receiving bribes for transfers and promotion at the CIB.”

The six former policemen all pleaded guilty to all of the charges. They had little choice. House cleaning seems to be a particularly bitter affair.